Midnight Madness: Izzo promises more years, banners as MSU coach

EAST LANSING, MICH. - Tom Izzo didn't wear KISS makeup, or an Iron Man costume, or a space suit on Friday night.

Though he eschewed his annual wacky, headline-garnering Midnight Madness entrance, his outfit held significance. Izzo, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame back in September, walked to center court wearing his orange Hall of Fame jacket and ring, with his wife and daughter by his side.

Perhaps more significant is what he changed into, and the message that came with it. Izzo handed his Hall of Fame jacket and ring to his wife, and put on his white Nike coaching jacket. He said he plans to wear his coaching jacket for another eight to 10 years — and bring MSU another Final Four banner within that span.

"That jacket and that ring is either going to be worn in retirement or death," Izzo said. "We're going to work and we're going to try and do what we do at Michigan State. We're going to try to hang another banner on that side."

The men's and women's basketball teams were in a celebratory mood on Friday night.

Head coach Suzy Merchant, dressed in an outfit reminiscent of Janet Jackson, danced to Jackson's "Rhythm Nation" with the rest of the team after introductions. Merchant took a moment to introduce Aerial Powers, who left MSU early at the end of last season to enter the WNBA Draft.


Powers kissed the Spartan logo at midcourt, an MSU goodbye tradition that she didn't get a chance to do last season.

"We had a kid on the team who went to the WNBA Draft, she was the fifth overall draft pick," Merchant said. "She was the highest draft pick in the history of Michigan State women's basketball. In just three years she set the record for most points scored at Michigan State. And she had an opportunity to go pro, that was her dream. She's living her dream right now."

This year's women's basketball team is a little younger, boasting just two seniors. But a talented junior class will add additional leadership, and senior Tori Jankoska, who is one of the greatest scorers in program history, will continue to move up the record sheets during her final season.

After men's basketball introductions, athletic director Mark Hollis took the mic to introduce Izzo, teasing a more tame entrance for the head coach.

"Tonight, we're going to do something a little different," Hollis said. "Rather than Tom doing something for you, you're going to do something for Tom."

Izzo thanked the crowd for their participation over the years, stating it takes a group effort for a program to sustain success.

"That's how you get into the Hall of Fame," Izzo said. "You find a bunch of people that want to accomplish some incredible things that most people think are unaccomplished. And when you all work together, and this is what I hope our country will start doing, if everybody banned together, if everybody worked together."

After a disappointing first round exit during last year's tournament, Izzo looked energized as he addressed the crowd. He pointed to both sides of the stadium as he talked about hanging more banners, and he implied he'll be around for up to another decade to make sure it happens.

"The dream is still alive," he said. "We've got work to do."

Lansing State Journal


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